Tim Sherwood's men survived a scare to beat the League Two club 5-3 after extra-time in their Capital One Cup second-round tie at Villa Park.
Adama hype looks justified
After an impressive debut display off the bench in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Crystal Palace, Adama Traore was brought into the starting line-up for the cup clash as one of nine changes and wasted no time in showcasing his Barcelona schooling to the claret and blue faithful.
Not only did the 19-year-old winger dazzle with his pace, creativity and dribbling skills on the right flank, but he also grabbed his first goal for the club with a 24th-minute equaliser to cancel out Genaro Snijders' earlier opener.
It may have only been lower-league opposition but the ex-Barca hotshot certainly looked like the real deal and, after lighting up Villa Park, fans will be crossing their fingers that the knock which forced him off on the hour is nothing serious.
No second season syndrome for Grealish
As impressive as Traore was, though, Villa’s other teenage sensation was even more stellar.
Former County loanee Jack Grealish proved arguably Villa’s best player against his old club despite failing to get on the scoresheet, as he stood out as the driving force of his side’s attack – setting up both Traore’s goal and Scott Sinclair’s second-half equaliser with two genius runs that bamboozled the opposition defence.
Having burst onto the Premier League scene during last season’s run-in, there is some concern over whether the homegrown product will be able to live to up the mounting expectations this term but, after back-to-back stellar showings in his first two starts of the campaign, it looks like fans should have nothing to fret about.
Sinclair shows his starting credentials
As mentioned, Sinclair was one of those who benefited from Grealish’s brilliance on the night, but the 26-year-old winger also proved why he could be just as key to Tim Sherwood’s side this season.
The ex-Manchester City man added to his 50th-minute strike with a penalty 12 minutes from the end to send the game to extra-time, before putting Villa in front for the first time in the match with a straightforward finish to ensure that their blushes were spared.
Having dropped to the bench on the weekend, his three-goal haul was a big statement ahead of Saturday’s visit of Sunderland and it’s certainly hard now to envisage Sherwood keeping him out of the line-up for a second-straight league game – especially at the expense of the struggling Gabby Agbonlahor.
He’s already proven during his successful spell at Swansea City that he can score in the top-flight and, if he can get back to that kind of form, then Villa will have a top talent at their disposal.
Cole has a role
Sinclair does have to thank Joe Cole after taking home the match ball, however, as the veteran midfielder came up with a sublime assist for his teammate’s third goal following his 60th-minute introduction.
There were plenty of other moments when the 33-year-old showed off his creativity during the final 50 minutes of the match too, as he looked sharp and motivated to send his manager as message after failing to make the bench for the past two league games.
After an injury-hit first season in the Midlands, few are expecting much from the ageing playmaker this term but, if he can keep off the treatment table, then he just might be able to carve out a bigger role in Sherwood’s plans than anticipated.
But others don't
Cole looks to be staying put during the closing stages of the summer transfer window, but the County clash did seem to give a good indication of which other players could well be off.
None of Philippe Senderos, Charles N’Zogbia or Aleksandar Tonev made the squad, despite all being fit and Sherwood stating his desire to hand some minutes to the fringe first-teamers, and it’s hard to imagine any of the three pushing their way back into the picture from here on.
The Villa boss has already stressed that the club will have to ship some players out if they want to buy again and, with the deadline fast approaching, you have to imagine that he is desperate to find some takers for the trio.